Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Caffeine Detox

Settle in with me, if you please, as I recount some of the darkest days of my life (in the past month).  Before you accept this offer, however, you need to prepare yourself to be enthralled by a chilling tale of woes and sorrows - which happens to rhyme (note to self: write a song called "Woes and Sorrows"... sounds like a country song). Most of what you're about to read is absolutely true, with only liberal amounts of creative embellishment.

A month ago I decided that it was time to quit caffeine. I can't really recall as to why this rash decision was made, as memory loss is one of the side affects of quitting caffeine suddenly and inexplicably (which is explained later, should you continue reading beyond this point). Luckily for you, I kept a detailed journal of all that I experienced during the fifteen hellish days of my caffeine detox.

Before I lavish those details upon you, however, it might do the reader some good to know exactly what I was walking away from. On any given day I would consume as much as 700 mg of caffeine. That's roughly equivalent to drinking almost thirteen Mt. Dews in one day (curious as to how I figured this out? Simple - I Googled it). Needless to say - I was in pretty deep.

Then one day, out of the blue, I just decided to quit caffeine. What followed next was a series of days that tested my resolve, and my bowels. If you must, those days are outlined for you below.

Days 1-3:
No big deal. I was feeling pretty confident. I may have even given a few high fives on several occasions on those first three days.

Day 4:
The headaches begin - mind crushing, soul scraping headaches.

Day 5:
Body aches in my shoulders and lower back. I hated life itself.

Day 6:
Profound inability to concentrate. I cursed the woman who gave me life.

Day 7:
Random outbursts of rage. My wife cursed the woman who gave me life.

Day 8:
A heightened appreciation for multi-player first-person shooter video games - though, sadly, simulated killing brought little relief.

Day 9:
Loss of bodily functions. My children abhorred me.

Day 10:
Facial contusions. I really shouldn't accredit these to my caffeine detox, as these were actually the result of repeated punches to my facial region by my wife, who was also in the midst of her caffeine detox.

Day 11:
Loss of fingernails and teeth.

Day 12:
Inexplicable impulse to howl at the moon.

Day 13:
The sudden ability to see in the dark.

Day 14:
Uncontrollable weeping.

Day 15:
A withered soul.

Days 16 through 30 have been steady improvements. I once again have the zeal for life that gets me out of bed every morning - only to engage in the pageantry of drinking a cup or two of decaf instant coffee.

I've said too much.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cooking with Amanda

Last night I was downloading video and pictures from our digital camera, when I happened upon a set of videos that inspired me. A few weeks ago, we had plans to meet up with some family for a delicious meal together. Our mission: Bring the rolls. That's when my wife, Amanda, decided that she would break tradition and make homemade dinner rolls. She probably thought to herself, "Hey, I make my own deodorant! Dinner rolls can't be that hard!"

What I find most amusing about this scenario is that she had the foresight to video tape the entire process for your viewing and cooking pleasure. When I found these videos, I began to dream about the possibilities. The result of those dreams is on the screen before you. So enjoy our new family venture, Cooking with Amanda. Sit down, grab a spoon, and preheat the oven... you will be inspired.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Have a Bad Feeling About This

Those words will forever bring to mind a time of child-like wonderment. A time and place when the world made sense, and mac 'n cheese was enough to satisfy my naive taste buds - even better when they were accompanied by fish sticks... ketchup on the side for dipping... chocolate milk to coat the palette. These were the days of my childhood.

These words are so much more than words. They're an anthem - the maxim of a generation. They will forever stand as a monument to a time and place where the magical was still possible, and wearing a set of Han Solo Underoos made you cool.

So, what does the phrase, I have a bad feeling about this, bring to your mind? A sense of foreboding, dread, or the onset of an ulcer? Or does it take your mind, like it does mine, back to all the countless hours you spent mesmerized in front of a TV screen watching Start Wars? That's right, this phrase makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You might even say that I have good feeling when I hear I have a bad feeling about this.

Now, before I go any further, I realize there's a chance, however ridiculously unlikely it may be, that you have no idea what this phrase and the Star Wars movies have in common. I'm sure, then, that I don't even need to mention the fact that the line I have a bad feeling about this is used in every Star Wars movie. That's right, every Star Wars movie... sometimes more than once. You can hear this famous line uttered by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and C-3PO.

When I hear those words, I can't help but think about Luke, Han, Leia and the gang zipping about the galaxy, kicking butt and saving worlds (except for Alderaan - that was a shame). I think about the fact that Star Wars was more than a movie... it was my world. I think about the time I was so spellbound watching Empire as a kid, that I unwittingly broke the leg off a rebel pilot action figure that I had just received for my birthday... and I cried. Or the time that I passed up an Imperial AT-AT toy for something not nearly as cool... years later, I cried. Or how I used to pretend flashlights were light sabers... and how I always wanted to be Han Solo, but never Luke... 'cause Luke was kinda whiney, and Han was dating Leia. So many memories - some good, some sad - flood my mind at the mention of these words.

I hear that famous line, I have a bad feeling about this, and I get a good feeling. A good, good feeling... maybe a little too good.

I just said too much.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

As a self-proclaimed music connoisseur (and yes, it took me quite a while to figure out how to spell connoisseur), there's a certain amount of satisfaction in following a band that 1) no one has ever heard of, and 2) has an incredibly unique name - bonus points if the band's name toes the fine line that separates cool/quirky/unique from just downright bizarre. Let's be honest, that's probably why bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Flaming Lips, Spoon and Jack Johnson have amassed the fan-base they have - name appeal... and that's about it. (I actually like all those bands)

So it's pretty safe to say I was elated with the discovery of this band, who's name is featured as the title for this post. That's right, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. It's not just quirky... nor is it simply unique... it's downright ridiculous. What's worse, there's really no way to shorten it. It's not like you would go around saying, "Hey! Do you have the new SSLYBY CD?" Or, "Are you going to the Boris Yeltsin show tonight?" See what I mean? So... big bonus points on this one.

But don't let the name of the band fool you into thinking their music is equally off beat. Quite the opposite. After just a few listens to some tunes from their Broom album, I was an instant fan. The smooth, hooky pop is reminiscent of bands like The Decemberists and New Pornographers (a band who's name loses points for crossing the line into "distasteful" territory)... and the Shins, which I hesitate to mention due to their reference in my last post. But, as a mentor of mine once said, "When in Rome..."

Another element that brings some appeal is that their debut album, the aforementioned Broom, was literally recorded in their basement. And so far, as I've since delved into later works this band has released, it just gets better as their sound morphs with their maturity. Each tune is saturated with catchy pop hooks, clean-guitar-laden riffs, and fun upbeat toe-tappin' goodness - all of it packaged in a kinda cool, edgy, atmospheric retro rock vibe.

If you're having doubts, please just take a minute to check out some of my favorite tunes by the Boris Yeltsin band: I Am Warm and Powerful, Oregon Girl, Back In the Saddle, Sink/Let it Sway, and many more.

After all this, I have but one thing to say... you're welcome...

... and I've said too much.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Aging Music Lover

There comes a time in every man's life when he looks at himself in the mirror and realizes just how pathetically old he is. It's not the speckles of gray in his hair, or even the drooping chest that are most telling. No, that's just wisdom and gravity. I firmly believe, and have since I turned thirty, that age isn't what makes one old, per say. It's a state of mind. That's why I've recently adopted the philosophy that you're only as old as the bands you listen to. Which, incidentally, is why I was startled not long ago with the realization that the newest song in my playlist was by Taylor Swift... and what's worse, I loved that song. Even more disturbing was the realization that I had spent nearly a year downloading songs by the Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Kenny Rogers. Depressed yet? So was I...

... so was I.

Then there came a defining moment for me. A group of friends decided to do a little music sharing via mixed-CD's. It sounded fun... until I realized that I had virtually nothing to offer. Allow me to run down my mix for you, if I may: Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Jack Johnson, Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi, Boston, and John Denver. Cyndi Lauper? Yes. I think you're starting to see just how dire the situation had become for me. Shortly after this little wake-up call, I mustered the will and determination to look at myself in the mirror one day. Right then and there I made a promise to myself... and to God. I promised that I would find new music... or I would die trying. Well, I'm still breathing, which can mean only one thing.

I found new music, indeed - starting with a band called the Headlights. Remember the music we grew up listening to? Bands like Def Lepperd, Poison, and Milli Vanilli? Well, the Headlights sound nothing like them. In fact, their sound is hard for me to describe. Theirs is a distinct brand of rock 'n roll that combines modern melodic structures and layering with a sound that harkens back to the HI-FI analog recording quality of a distant, simpler era. The vocals - both male and female - have a sort of haunting quality about them. They've intentionally traded pristine accuracy for quirky nuances that ultimately make them more likable, in my mind. If you're looking for a contemporary reference to help you out here, look no further than the Shins, Oh Inverted World.

One of their songs that immediately grabbed me is off their Some Racing, Some Stopping album. It's called Get Your Head Around It. I'm serious... I could listen to the intro of this song for a very long time before losing my mind... and the entire song is great. From the opening lines "I read a book about a man who made mistakes all of the time," to the rhythmic change up at the bridge, to the closing, "In silence we'll both walk away"... this song is a great listen, over and over again. The only unfortunate thing about it is that the opening melody - which is so hooky, it will loop repeatedly in your mind for days - isn't revisited anywhere else in the song. Teenage Wonder from their Wildlife album holds a similar appeal for me, but features their female lead singer.

You know what, I just wish you would take a minute out of your day to follow the links I've provided above, and give those songs a thirty second preview. You might like what you hear.

Then again, I'm sure I've said too much.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Director's Cut

A few months ago, I was given the task of creating a video to promote a campaign at church in which we would launch new small groups. So I engaged the help of my good friend to make this movie. Due to time constraints, however, the movie was reduced to a mere shell of what it was intended to be. So now I bring to you the director's cut: The Quest for Hosts. Brace yourself for movie-making mediocrity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cloudy With a Chance of Swedish Meatballs

When two worlds collide, it often creates a scene of complete chaos. In the literal sense, it creates the ending of two worlds. Let's face it, colliding like that is pretty destructive. But in the metaphorical realm, it's not always that messy. It can, at times, even be a bit amusing. Like this time... I hope.

Recently I found myself pondering the implications if one were to combine my favorite animated comedy featuring the voice of Bill Hader, with my favorite Swedish furniture manufacturer. That's when I conceived this little chestnut: Cloudy With a Chance of Swedish Meatballs! You may be asking if there's a reason why these two things should be lumped together. And I answer with another question: Is there any reason they shouldn't be? Now that you're convinced, I'll dive into this double-feature quasi review post.

To kick this off - which in no way calls to question the validity of the prior two paragraphs - let me direct you to a blog that actually reviewed this movie (just click the words that look yellow). I'll admit that, for me, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was a bit of an acquired taste. It started with one of those occasions when I discovered that it was offered as a free "On Demand" selection, so I put it on for the kids to watch. Through several viewings, I would lackadaisically happen upon a scene, or two, and think, "Hmmm... this movie is kinda funny." Finally, after my kids had been through it darn near a baker's dozen, or so, times, I sat down and watched it start to finish. And boy was I delighted. From the decidedly 80's artistic style, to Flint Lockwood's zany "inventions-gone-amuck," to the witty dialogue accompanied by hilarious animation, this movie cracks me up every time. Some have said it's the funniest animated comedy since Emperor's New Groove - but I say it's even better; perhaps even funnier than Kopps. And that forced mention of an obscure Swedish film is just the segue I need...

... and brings me to the other topic of this review: Swedish furniture manufacturing. Or, as most of us know it, IKEA. You may or may not be surprised to know that we're the only people in the world who call it "eye-KEE-uh." That's because everyone else in the world has the sense to pronounce it with the proper European sounding "ee-KAY-ah." With that awkward correction behind us, I'd like to share with you a brief tale of my last visit to the wonderful land of IKEA. We were already familiar with the territory, which we knew included a restaurant on the top floor. So, after we bought some furniture, we went upstairs and ate some Swedish meatballs... and they were delicious. I'm seriously hoping to go back there soon so I can have another helping of Swedish meatballs. Seriously. The furniture is neat, too.

Well, I've said a lot more than I intended to.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Buttoned On the Hanger, Please

Could I be any more OCD? Probably. With a little intentionality, along with the kind of dedicated hard work this country was founded upon, I'm sure it's possible. Will I make such an effort? Probably not.

But I find myself faced with a little Catch 22, if you will. A "no win," as it were. A real pickle, if you prefer. You know what, just call it whatever you want.

Here's the skinny. I prefer my button down shirts hanging on the hanger with the top button closed. The reasons for this are quite simple - it has to do with the shaping of the shirt as it hangs on the hanger. You see, as it hangs with the top button left open, the collar gets all droopy and misshapen. What's worse, it will likely reamin wide open at the neck and all twisted weird when I wear it. And then all the other pastors in the office will make fun of me. So I prefer the top button closed when it's on the hanger so that the collar will retain its shape, and it will wear more nicely at the office. Having said that, however, my loving and selfless wife, who masterfully does our laundry (more often than not) often leaves my shirts hanging in the closet with the second button closed, but the top button (gasp) open.

But here's the deal. Because my wife works so hard, and I truly appreciate how much she does to keep our house together, I don't say anything to her. After all, I could do my own laundry. But since she's willing to do that for me, I feel like a real jerk critiquing how she does it. I mean, what kind of husband would do that? You'd seriously have to be a real dead-beat to go and instruct your wife on how she should hang your shirts in the closet. Seriously, man.

And yet, my shirts are continually hung improperly. My options: I could lovingly confront the situation - maybe with a flower in hand just to show much I appreciate her efforts, but openly communicating my preferences. I could even offer to hang my own shirts from now on. I could, in fact, just iron the shirts and get over it. Or I could write about it in a blog post, which she'll undoubtedly read at some point. My choice is obvious.

Have I said too much?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Up In The Air

Occasionally I'll watch a movie simply because of the hype its received by the "Academy" on Oscar night. Slumdog was the first, and this was the second. Each time I go into a screening like this, I give the movie thirty minutes to hook me. In both cases, the hook was effectively embedded in approximately thirty seconds.

Have you ever found yourself roughly half-way into a movie and thinking to yourself, "I can already tell I'm going to like this movie." I'm not gonna lie to you, that's a pretty foolhardy thing to say. I mean, you have no idea what will unfold in the second half. The main character could get hit by a bus, or drown, or join the Navy... the entire world could explode in the final moments of the movie, making it the worst movie ever. Then, you'd have to live with the fact that you - if only inwardly - had declared your affection for a terrible movie. And that's a painful thing to live with, trust me.

Well, on this occasion I threw caution to the wind and found myself daring to make this inward statement halfway through Up In the Air... and it didn't disappoint... and yet, strangely, neither did it satisfy. Hmm... It might appear that I'm poised quite comfortably on the fence. But I'm not. And here's why. I'll just tell you straight up: I liked this movie... a lot. Start to finish, it was a great story. So why the him-haw on the "satisfaction" comment earlier? You need to watch the movie.

But before you do, I need to offer this disclaimer: This movie contains some language that most will consider just downright foul. In addition to that, there are a few dicey encounters, though merely implied, between a couple who aren't married. In light of these things, one mustn't overlook the "R" rating.

But here's why I liked this movie - in the end, you see why the "dicey" lifestyle just doesn't work. While I don't condone any of the aforementioned shenanigans, there's definitely a redeeming quality in this story, and I found it to be a powerful message on the basic fundamental need for true intimacy, and deep relationships. And if I may, I have a real soft spot for "secular" media that ultimately proves what we've been trying to say all along... but if I say what that is, well then I just might get all preachy.

And I've already said too much.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Funny (0) Interesting (0) Cool (0)

Someone in the blogging industry thought this would be a good idea; I shake my head in sadness. Is it a "fun" and "interactive" way for readers to offer their response to your heartfelt post? Or an empty promise that has left countless bloggers with crippled dreams? I submit to you the latter.

I've seen this a hundred times... if not a thousand. Bright, young, ambitious bloggers start out with stars in their eyes, and dreams in their hearts. They spend countless minutes writing their posts with the hopes of one day going viral. And what's better than writing a blog? Someone reading your blog. And let's face it - we don't want awards, or accolades, or money. All we want to know is that it left some kind of mark on our faithful readers... an impression, if you will. It doesn't necessarily need to be life changing. But if we knew that it was at least funny... or interesting... or cool... then our fulfillment would be complete.

Then Blogger extends the proverbial hand with this little gem. With the "Reactions" feature as part of your post, you can see what readers thought of your wit and candor. Or so they would have you believe.

Sadly, too many of us find that, post after brilliant post, these aspirations remain just a wishful hope. We write, we post, and we check - with tenacious obsession - to see how our audience was impacted. What started with naive optimism too often ends with the same disappointment. Funny: 0. Interesting: 0. Cool: 0. But there's an unspoken category that gets the biggest tally of them all: Dejected.

Thousands experience this. And I'm one of them.

I've said too much.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Lamentation for Krispy Kreme

I long for doughnuts. Yet I find only crap in doughnut's clothing. To whom will I go to satisfy this longing in my soul. The days have turned to night, and the nights have turned to winter, and the winter has turned to wastelands where no one dares to cry. Alas, the tears are all they have left.

The smooth, evenly glazed glory you once displayed so proudly has left only misery in my mouth. There is none who can match your sweetness. "Hot Now!" How now? I see no glowing neon-light-laden visage to guide me. My ways seem lost, and my waist has withered.

When will this nightmare end? I weep and gnash my teeth in vain... nothing will wake me from this horror. I drive by the dwelling that once brought forth such joy. But another has taken your place. Have they forgotten, oh sleeper? Have they forgotten your systematic conveyer of deep-fried splendor? Your rushing falls of glistening glaze? Have they forgotten your majesty?

Oh, Krispy Kreme! Oh, Krispy Kreme! My voice cries out, though no one hears. Alas, they have returned to the south where my wailing cannot be heard. Let the children weep tonight, and mothers curse the moon. Let the dogs lie in the street as their urine fills the gutters. Let the nations close their mouths and spit upon the barren north. The end of this age will only bring respite from the aching in my soul.

If only I'd said this sooner.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Pacific

Finally, it has come to this. My list of the three best war movies ends right here... right now.

This past winter we changed our cable company and took advantage of a promotional package that boasts the best rates... of course, those rates only apply for a year. After that they show up at your front door and demand your firstborn. I've seen it a hundred times.... Anyway, along with this promotional package came a complimentary subscription to HBO. This was about the same time they were just starting to promote The Pacific - their epic follow up to Band of Brothers. Tears were streaming down my face just watching the promos.

As was mentioned in my first post in this series, BoB follows a company of soldiers through the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. The Pacific, however, follows three Marines through the entire war in the Pacific (hence the clever title) fighting the relentless Japanese soldier.

I want to be very clear about something. I've already stated my views on what war movies should embody. The simple fact of the matter is that Band of Brothers and The Pacific set the standard. Period. The Pacific went immediately to my top three as I made my way through each episode earlier this year. Like it's predecessor, The Pacific went to painstaking details to recreate each conflict and character vignette. Again, the characters on screen represent real people - names have not been changed. And once again, Hanks and Spielberg collaborated to bring unbelievably life-like production. It really feels like you're watching each battle as it's happening.

The Pacific, by its very nature, however, faced some challenges right off the bat that make it hard to live up to its big (band of) brother(s). First of all, the timing of the production created a challenge in finding surviving veterans to provide the setup for each episode. As was mentioned, that was such a rich part of the experience in BoB. It wasn't altogether missing, here, but lacked the overall participation from some of the leading characters - most of whom had passed away years before the film was made.

Second of all was the scope of the story. The U.S. involvement in the Pacific war lasted from 1942 to 1945. And within that timeframe, there were a number of campaigns launched, and even more battles fought on numerous islands. It was a big war in and of itself.... huge.

The final challenge for this movie was the lack of an existing cohesive story. What made Band of Brothers so great was that the story was packaged and ready to go. Steven Ambrose had already written the book about Easy Company in the 501st Airborne. From their training days to the end of the war, which was only a little over a year, their story was ideal to tell in miniseries format. The Pacific, however, was missing that. Instead of having one literary piece to inspire the movie, they drew from a few memoires written by Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge, two of the main characters; and then well documented historical data on the well-known war hero John Basilone. And because of that, the story is a bit fragmented and the characters are harder to connect with.

What The Pacific did for me, however, was reveal in a very vivid manner the horrific nature of war. There's nothing glamorous about it. What these men and women endured in their service to our country literally - at the risk of sounding very serious - broke my heart. Fighting a relentless enemy who would not surrender; fighting in extreme heat, constant rain, and mud that was knee-deep; fighting off malaria; being under-supplied and cut off; seeing women and children used as weapons against them. The atrocities that were depicted in The Pacific were absolutely appalling -  many of them things I had not seen or heard of before. And you watched how these dehumanizing conditions began to affect each one of them.

These three movies - Band of Brothers, Black Hawk Down, and The Pacific - remind us that war is absolute hell. They tell the stories of brave men and women who fought for our country out of a sense of patriotic duty. These men didn't step up seeking a fight or wanting to kill. They answered a call in a time of need. Each time I watch one of these movies, I ask myself, "Could I do that?" And I'm not so sure I could. You may be against war. I don't like it, either. Regardless, the bravery and the sacrifice of these soldiers is something I deeply, deeply respect. And I'm thankful we have these movies to tell their stories.

I've said what I needed to say.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Freudian Typos

So I'm trying to do this "30 Posts in 30 Days" thing to launch this blog. It's an antic I borrowed from my friends at Two Bibliofreaks (or something like that). Sure - they did 45ish in 30 days, and that's way cooler... but whatever. Well, I'm literally only days away from completing this mission. And don't worry, I have plenty to write about. But it all came very close to a sudden, whiplashing, back-snapping stop tonight. At a "one hour" family gathering, something went terribly wrong and turned it into a two-and-a-half hour family gathering. Though the food was good, and so was the family, it meant that we got home close to ten o'clock. Which isn't a big deal, except for the fact that I have to get up at 5:00 am! My plan, therefore, was to get home, put the kids the bed, and then dive into bed for a good seven hour slumber. Imagine my utter disappointment when I realized that I had yet to write today's post. There I stood, staring down the computer, weeping bitterly, peeing my pants. Did I consider skipping this post? Yes I did. And that's no lie. But no... I WILL have a post for today, or I will die trying. Let it be known that I'm NOTHING if not dedicated to bringing you meaningless words to read on a daily basis for the next six days! That's my promise to you, the reader.

Moving on (this is where I actually write about the topic of the post): Very rarely does one like to point out their own mistakes. Truth be told, most of us will go out of our way to minimize - or dare I say hide - our mistakes. Kinda like the time when I was a kid and I tried to hide the mud on my clothes with WD40. Turns out it was a huge backfire. Not only did my mom see the mud, but she also smelled the chemicals I'd sprayed all over my body. It wasn't funny at the time. Thankfully, I still have my skin, though most of it is now covered in hair.

Occasionally, however, I pick up on a mistake - the typo kind of mistake - that seems to be a bit more common, and even recurring. What's even more peculiar are the typos, themselves. It's almost as if my subconscious is speaking through my mistakes. Stange, I know. Paranormal... maybe. Regardless, It's a bizarre enough phenomenon that I thought it would be blog worthy. Notice, however, the amount of filler to this point. Let's just cut to the chase, and hopefully you'll see what I mean.

On more than one occasion, while using my cellular phone equipped with SMS (Short Messaging Service) capabilities - which is the fancy euro way of saying "texting" - I began tapping the letters gingerly with the intent of spelling the word "love". This being a text message to my lovely wife, the usual intent is to string enough words together to spell "I love you." On multiple occasions, however, I will look to find that I've inadvertently typed "I LIVE you." I think to myself, "Well, yes... I do live her. She's (dramatic soap opera-ish pause) my life." A typo, nonetheless.

In fact, on a separate occasion, while trying to type the word "wife" on my cellular device, I discovered that I had, in fact, spelled "LIFE" - again, true - she is my life. But, still, an unforgivable error that should have been corrected. I'm deeply embarrassed.

I've said way too much.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Black Hawk Down

Consider this my second post in a series of three in which I expose the best war movies in the last one thousand years. That's right, a millennium of war movies... most of which being made within the last eighty years. My list, however, only accounts for the last ten years... because those are the years that count.

To be honest with you, I wouldn't have placed Black Hawk Down in the top three until I watched it again just recently. And that was only my second viewing of the film. Did I like it the first time I watched it in theaters almost ten years ago? Yes I did. So why the delay between viewings? The answers to that question are the very things that put this film in the number two spot. But I'll get to that in just a moment.

Before I get to the good stuff, allow me to offer a little commentary. This movie should have been called Black Hawks Down, as there were two choppers shot down in this battle. It needed to be said. Don't know what it's about? Man... I'm full of questions! Well, here's the quick intel: This movie tells the story of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, in which U.S. troops were called in to extract key Somali warlords. It was designed to be a 30 minute, in and out mission, which turned into an 18 hour stand-off when two U.S. Black Hawk Helicopters were shot down by enemy RPGs. And before all you D&D fans get all excited, RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade.

Now, if I may, I'd like to actually share a thought or two on why this film makes the top three. For starters, one of the biggest reasons why it made a quick, and very recent, jump to the top is simply for the significance of the story. In my experience, there are far too few good war movies that depict realistic modern warfare. On top of that, the conflict itself isn't as well known as WWII, Vietnam, or even Desert Storm. I love how it brings this obscure battle to light, and depicts the modern soldier.

The second reason would have to be the general realism of how the story is told. As I said in my last war movie review, a good war movie is one that honors our military veterans with realism - not Hollywood hype. And if you want to know why it took me almost ten years to come back around for another viewing of this movie, it's because this movie is nothing if not realistic. To be honest, there are many parts that are just difficult to watch. And while it doesn't come close to the realism of Band of Brothers, with real life men portrayed on the screen with matching names, it comes pretty close. My understanding is that every character in Black Hawk Down was inspired by a real person... in some cases, multiple people.

When writing a review for this movie, you can't ignore the non-stop action. There's maybe 20 minutes of setup at the beginning, but then it's on... and it's on hard... until the end of the movie. This movie is literally one big battle scene that rarely lets up. And the action is so intense, a diaper is advised while viewing. That's a mistake I made on both occasions.

Finally, the last reason why this movie was so good was the lack of screen time by Orlando Bloom. But you will enjoy performances by Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnet, Jeremy Piven and a few other guys you've probably seen is some other war movies.

Listen - this is a good movie. Some of the "buddy soldier antics" in the beginning are a little cliche. But those moments are fleeting and forgivable when the real story is unleashed. When it's all over, you'll be thankful you weren't an Army Ranger in '93... unless, of course, you were. In that case, my hats off to you.

I said a lot.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shower Brainstorming

Ideas come to me, like whispers from an unknown wellspring of whispering things, in the most peculiar of ways. It's a curse, really... a burden. What good is an idea when it will simply be lost without means for memory or use? On the other hand, where are the ideas when you actually need them? It's almost as if ideas have a mind of their own... like fickle cats that will grace you with their presence on their terms. Just think what man could accomplish if ideas were more like dogs? Or elephants? Or moles? Then I'd have a backyard full of ideas! That is, if they were more like moles... I have no dogs... nor elephants, for that matter.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yes...

I often do my best thinking in the shower. Maybe it's the hot water pounding against my head, but ideas - whether sought after, or not - just come rushing into my brain. One may be quick to assume this a good thing. Oh, but I would beg to differ... beg to differ, indeed. As you will see, this can only lead to a frustrating cycle of over-washing and memory loss.

Idea birthing is - by definition - terribly distracting work. For example, in one shower I may spring forth a myriad of new ideas - amazing ideas, in fact - ideas that will set mankind on a completely new trajectory into a brave new world. But by the time those ideas have come to full realization, I've forgotten what I've accomplished in my shower to that point. Have I washed my hair? My face? I can't remember! I was too busy shaping ideas to remember what I did just moments before! I'm left with no choice but to go back to work on that which I believe is yet to be done: Washing my face (as an example). It's only after I'll start washing my face that I remember... yes, I've done this before. Thus, my face is doubly clean.

Sadly, the brilliant ideas I had just moments ago are washed down the drain. While my face will smell of home-made organic soap for hours to come, tomorrow's bright future is lost forever.

I'm convinced I once unlocked the mystery of time travel, but by the time I washed my hair for the third time it had completely escaped me. Of course, when I sit at my computer - where my amazing, life changing ideas can be recorded and researched... I got nothin'.

What will I dream up the next time I'm in the shower? Perhaps a method of recording my shower-inspired ideas. Of course, it'll be gone by the time I suds up the loofa... for the fourth time.

I'm sure you'll agree... I said too much.